Posted in TV Stuff

For the Geek in me, 2018 was awesome part 2: TV

​In a ‘challenging’ year there have been a number of times I needed to get out of my own head and just enjoy this and whilst pickings have been slim, what I have found to enjoy I really have enjoyed. While I have watched a lot of continuing stuff from previous years, there was also a few new shows to enjoy.

Doctor Who


I am treating this as a new series, with the entire new cast and producer. After the up and frequent downs of Capaldi’s era, a change was needed. We ended up with a surprisingly enjoyable Bradley Walsh along with a pair of relatively unknown actors as companions, with Jodie Whittaker excelling as the newly female Doctor. It’s a lighthearted show with moments of depth and pathos. This back to basics approach has left me as excited and it’s nice to be excited about Doctor Who again.

Strong

I am not a fan of ‘reality’ TV and so this show with it’s contrived premise and forced tensions should have been unwatchable, but I found this rivetting. Eight women of various fitness levels and backgrounds are paired with eight personal trainers of differing disciplines to compete in teams of two in a series of fitness based competitions to win up to $500,000.

It’s heavily product placed and much of the drama is contrived, but with its theme of empowerment, making positive changes and competition moving you forward it was a surprisingly entertaining show. Watching these women grow in confidence as they acquired the strength they felt they lacked was really satisfying. This was a show that proves that whatever health-based changes you make to your body, it’s the changes to your mind that matter the most.

You’re the Worst


I wasn’t sure what to make of this show when I caught it at the start of the year. It was a romantic comedy, with mostly unlikeable characters. To be honest, that sounds like most romantic comedies to me, but these characters are meant to be unlikeable. Publicist Gretchen and moderately successful author Jimmy are the worst people any of their friends know and sort of end up together without really trying. Add in Jimmy’s flatmate the well meaning veteran Edgar and Gretchen’s best friend Lyndsay who is trying her best to be happy in a marriage that she’s not really invested in, but lords her getting married first over her older sister, Jimmy’s ex. No one here is nice, or trying to be a better person, they’re either oblivous, narcissistic or some combination of both. There’s a season long narrative, but that sort of gives the series a nice ending point and so when the 2nd season started last month, I decided to leave it at one season which I enjoyed. It’s not for everyone, but I really did enjoy this.

Roast Battle

Jimmy Carr has made a career out of being a little nastier than his peers. From his insulting introductions on 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown, to his relaunch of Your Face or Mine alongside Katherine Ryan, he’s best known for nasty jokes, quick one-liners and being singled out for tax avoidance. He takes that talent for tearing people a new one to it’s natural extension with Roast Battle. Roast Battle isn’t original, it comes from an american show with Jeff Ross and Brian Moses, the latter being on here as a referee. The concept is simple, two comedians trade insults and barbed jokes, getting five jokes each with little to no restrictions and the panel (made up of Jimmy Carr, Katherine Ryan and someone known to misbehave in public, we’ve had Russell Brand and Johnathan Ross so far) judge the winner. The jokes are cutting and quite often below the belt. A particular highlight was Bobby Mair and his wife Harriet against eachother and her best line being “You look adopted.” the whole crowd went “Oooooh” at that one. There’s been best friends, girlfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife and at one point father and son. There’s bad language and savage jokes aplenty, but none of it feels mean spirited. This is sparring as much as anything else and it’s made me laugh as hard as anything else this year.

A Discovery of Witches

There are very few tropes that get an airing as often as vampires and other supernaturals living in secret. Twilight, Moonlight, Blood Ties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Vampire DIaries, Midnight Texas, True Blood and others besides, so it wasn’t particularly something I had any real interest in, when the marketing started. That said, like the good little geek I am, I gave it a go. There wasn’t the usual flashy effects from day one, the nighttime settings and the angry and tortured vampire. This was mostly set in Oxford, during the day and the vampire was calm and composed the whole time. This was about a society of vampires, witches and demons co-existing through compromise and strict segregation. Diana Bishop (a witch) tries to research a book on the history of alchemy and this brings year into contacts with Matthew Clairmont (a vampire) who needs it for his research into the declining numbers of vampires, witches and demons. This book is wanted by nearly everyone on each side and a massive game of politics and magic grows into a war that threatens the peace between the creatures and the safety of this witch and vampire, who find themselves drawn to one another.

This show is beautifully shot and acted with conviction and nuance by a very capable cast working from a fascinating story with more than a few twists and turns which left the first season with something of a cliffhanger, which I only realised was a season ender after the episode finished. With DVDs, streaming services and catch up TV, I very rarely have anything like a regular schedule for any Tv, but this was a show that the MIGHTY Rosie and I watched this religiously.

New TV this year was very much about quality over quantity, but there was a lot of good stuff as there is every year and no doubt lots and lots of things that I missed as well as stuff that started last year that continued to entertain and with news series slated to start soon and new series of current favourites like Star Trek Discovery, Bojack Horseman and Orville either starting soon or already started, 2019 looks to be another embarassment of riches.

Two down, one to go and it’s back to the cinema.

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Posted in Podcasts, Shared Stuff, TV Stuff

Podcast a-go-go

As I wrote in a previous post, my affection for Star Trek goes quite a way quite back. The Next Generation was where I really grew to love Trek and one of my favourite podcasters has recently done an episode of his excellent Palace of Glittering Delights all about TNG and it really is worth a listen. TNG was never a perfect show, but with over 180 episodes and 4 movies, there was some great stuff in.here and he looks at 10 he enjoyed. I have an order I listen to podcasts in, being so behind on my subscriptions, but Palace always jumps the queue.
[Palace of Glittering Delights] 101 – Top Ten (ish) Treks II

http://podplayer.net/?id=58481977 via @PodcastAddict

Posted in TV Stuff

I believe in redemption: Or I enjoyed Star Trek Discovery

Trek and Me:

As a longtime fan of sci-fi and similar genres, it’s not going to be shocking information that I was a fan of Star Trek. I was for many years a Trekkie and feel no more embarassment about that, than I do anything else I am a fan of. By that I mean, deeply embrassed in the past, but a lot less concerned about people’s opinion now. Whilst Star Trek was on telly when I was younger, it wasn’t until The Next Generation started in 1987 that I really started to get into Star Trek. With it’s hopeful future, high concept sci-fi ideas and cool technology, there was a lot for me to like, it even had a number of alien characters for my less socially confident self could identify with. The show went from strength to strength and this spin off itself had a spin off, the excellent Deep Space 9. It peaked at that point and for me the less said about Voyager and Enterprise the better. For many years Trek was the only game in town for quality TV sci-fi, so it kind of got away with coasting from time to time, when other sci-fi TV and films started getting better, Trek didn’t keep up, so when Enterprise called it a day at 4 years old, I was quite sanguine about the whole thing, we got over 28 seasons of enjoyable TV and ten or so movies, I think we did alright and so Star Trek kind of went away.

Years went by and then the JJ Abrams reboot happened, recastings and hand-wavy alternate universes gave us new Trek, but with all the old names and it was …good. The first film stands up as a good space opera movie, with action and some small amount of pathos and a little fun here and there, but didn’t feel like Trek, the second one wasn’t better in that regard, the third one, Star Trek Beyond, felt a little more like real Star Trek, but the writing was on the wall and with all sorts of problems with the casting and the like, it felt like movie Trek was about to go the way of TV Trek and I was okay with that, Star Trek was a TV thing anyway, so it not being on at the pictures was no great loss, I mean with the MCU and Star Wars doing so well, it wasn’t as if I didn’t have enough to fill up my Blu-Ray collection.

But really, Star Trek was and really should be a TV show, it was more cerebral, more episodic and was made to have a large cast, that didn’t really need a star. Then we heard the news, Star Trek was coming back to the small screen on a streaming service, then the horror for the non-Americans, it was a streaming service we didn’t get. Fortunately the ever expanding Netflix got the international nights and along with all the old shows, we got something unexpected, for the first time in ten years, new Trek on TV. For the first time in a while, Star Trek was exciting again.

The show itself.

Warning, spoilers

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Set just before the Original series, in the 2250’s, this was the story of Michael Burnham, the adopted daughter of Sarek of Vulcan, who had become the 1st officer of the USS Shenzhou under it’s captain Philippa Georgiou. Whilst surveying a binary star system, the ship encounters Klingons. These Klingons under the leadership of zealot T’Kuvma are trying to unite the great houses of Quo’nos and the best way to do that is to find a common foe, in this case the United Federation of Planets. Michael sees this heading towards a fight and tries to strike first, to avoid diplomacy and meet the Klingons as they would meet them. This goes badly and this ill-advised course of events, leads to a state of war between the Federation and the Klingon empire, which was of course what T’Kuvma wanted all along. After shooting her superior officer and her attempts to make things right getting her captain killed, Michael is arrested for treason, stripped of her commission and sentenced to prison for the rest of her life, all as the Federation she did this all for is plunged into a war that Starfleet (mostly at this point being explorers rather than soldiers) is ill-equipped to fight.

6 Months later, she is on a shuttle being moved to another ship, when it’s attacked by a Klingon vessel and is rescued by the USS Discovery, under the command of Gabriel Lorca, who see’s Michael as useful to him. Michael is uneasy, seeing many of her old crew on Discovery, including it’s 1st officer is Mr Saru, her old subordinate on the Shenzhou. Lorca offers her a chance a redemption, a way to win the war and explore the universe once more. She’s given quarters, which she shares with an incredibly chatty cadet called Tilly and an assignment in engineering with the less than cheerful Lt Paul Stamets. The first season of Discovery is essentially Michael’s redemption, her second chance to do the right thing, for the right reasons.

There’s the usual easter eggs, with appearances by Spock’s parents, Harry Mudd as well as many mentions of familar worlds and races, but there’s also a lot of new. The uniforms are not the old two piece bright colours and the Klingons also get quite the new look. There’s a bleaker tone, as if a brighter world has been tarnished by war, but still yearns to gleam. We also get looks as what it means to be a human raised by aliens, what war does to good people and also how compassion for our enemy might be the only thing that seperates us from them. We see matter of fact depictions of gay marriage, sensitive handlings of post traumatic stress disorder and what different people are okay living with in order to keep themselves and their way of life alive.

It isn’t Star Trek of old, it isn’t Rodenberry’s way, but it is compelling, it is interesting and it is a welcome return to Trek on TV. It starts well, takes several twists and turns and ends up as single season that tells an interesting story about redemption, about principles and about compassion.

This could have been a disaster (cough Enterprise cough) but instead was a thoughtful 15 part story that showed me that my love of Star Trek was an ongoing thing, rather than something a bit of my history. When I heard that season 2 was coming in January, I was actually excited about it.

It’s not it’s episodic antecedents, but if you have ever enjoyed Trek, you’ll find a lot of the good is still there, if you haven’t then it’s different enough from what it was to win new fans. It’s easy to find on Netflix here in the UK and it’s well worth seeking out.

Posted in TV Stuff

5 Good Reboots

It’s hard to recapture the magic needed to make a great TV show. That has never, ever stopped the skilled and the unskilled having a go at it again and again.

Whilst most are ridiculous car-crashes (cough Charlie’s Angels) there are those that are actually decent enough in and of themselves and can almost stand alongside the originals.

The Obvious: Battlestar Galactica

A soup to nuts Reboot of the 70’s cult classic, this took familiar names and took them to a darker and less camp exploration of survival at the bitter edge.

The Recent One: Lethal Weapon

A Reboot of a film rather than a TV show this had the madcap action of the films, but a deeper look at the effects of depression and PTSD was with it. It was funny and moving in equal measure and never treated the subject matter lightly.

The CGI One: Captain Scarlet

Captain Scarlet was a bleak almost noirish spy-fi series from the creator of Thunderbirds and more often than not, pulled no punches. It wasn’t as kid friendly as the other shows from Gerry Anderson and this relaunch followed suit, adding more modern sensibilities and more in depth characterisation. It’s worth checking out.

The Rom-Com one: Lois & Clark the New Adventures of Superman

After the earnestness of George Reeves in the 1950’s, the 90’s Reboot took a very His Girl Friday approach to the early years of Superman. Dean Cain was innoffensively bland as Clark as well as Superman, but it was Terri Hatcher’s Lois Lane that stole much of the show with her portrayal of a workaholic who’s life outside of work was a disaster area.

The Continuation One: Doctor Who

For 25 years Doctor Who was a mainstay of BBC TV, before it died a slow death of low quality and lower ratings. It took a couple of decades to get back to the idea of making good Who to come back around again. This show was accessible enough to appeal to new fans, but felt enough like the old show to appeal to the old guard, it was eventually connected to the older show making it just as much a continuation as a Reboot.

There are other examples of good relaunches and so many more of bad ones, which are guaranteed to mean that more ill-advised reboots are coming, but maybe, just maybe there are some diamonds in that rough.

Posted in TV Stuff

Lucky Number 7 Part 1

Something I had been thinking about doing.

A guy I know on Facebook has a podcast (to be fair that covers 40% of the people I know on facebook) on a recent-ish episode he talked about shows that are, could be, and shouldn’t be re-booted and one of the ones he mentioned was 70’s low budget sci-fi ‘classic’ Blake’s 7. Now I have seen an episode here and there, nothing really grabbed me, so I moved on. It is often referenced, considered a cult classic by many, but the stink of 70’s TV sci-fi hung over it, low budget, low action and low quality, so I never really thought it worth my time.

Now when the podcast mentioned it, a curious part of me decided to give it a try. It was easy to do, given that almost the whole thing is one YouTube.

The show itself is something of an oddity in a number of ways and within a single episode had subverted my expectations and by the second, I was hooked. It occurred to me to write about it, the way I wrote about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, so that’s what I intend to do.

So let’s do that with Season 1.

Season one started with The Way Back which aired in January 1978. The world of Blake’s 7 is a far future dystopia, with humanity spread out to the stars, but the majority of humanoid life being ruled by the tyrannical Federation. Most people are okay with this, mostly because the populace are eating food laced with drugs that promote obediance and lower resistance. This is the story of Roj Blake, who was something of an activist leader, but whose movement was violently put down by the Federation’s security people. He was arrested and before he was tried, subjected to horrifying mind control techniques, then he testified, showing remorse and singing the praises of the compassionate and merciful Federation. Many potential dissidents learn the lesson, don’t screw with the state, you will not win. He’s then completely brain neutered, put on the drugged food and lives a quiet uninteresting life. This is all before the first episode.

Some survivors of Blake’s original group find him and bring him back into the fold, they are quickly massacred and Blake arrested, for the crime of being brought to an activism meeting. Realising the PR nightmare this entails, the Federation try some dirty tricks and frame him for child abuse. Do they place pictures in his belongings? No. What they do is using the same brainwashing technology implant false memories of abuse in the minds of 4 children. Think about that for one second. That would mean that 4 children suffer the horrors of surviving abuse, which will most likely stay with them for their entire lives for what is essentially the political act of smearing a dissenting voice. When the trial comes, well it’s not really much in question and Blake is sentenced to a prison planet. His lawyer starts to get suspicious, but is killed along with his wife. Blake is our hero, Blake is a broken man who is a convicted sex offender and is on his way to prison. That’s episode 1.

Episodes 2 through 4 give us the rest of the team, smuggler Jenna Stannis, thief Vila Restal, freedom fighter Cally, violent murderer Olag Gan and amoral hacker Kerr Avon. All but Cally are on the prison ship with Blake and he escapes onto a conveniently abandoned space ship. On the ship is it’s AI who is soon called Zen. With his memories returning and his outrage growing, Blake decides to use this alien ship, dubbed the Liberator as a weapon against the Federation. With nowhere else to go, Cally, Avon, Vila, Jenna and Gan join this crusade.

7 against the tyrants, or killers and thieves turned terrorists attack the legitimate government? Both are true and the story keeps this bleak tone through the season. This is the brainchild of Terry Nation, the man who brought us the Daleks and it has that feel to the whole season. Blake isn’t really a hero here, he’s angry and wants revenge, he may not be wrong to want it, but that is what he is after. He doesn’t fight for a better world, just the destruction of the one he was in. Most of the cast, including Blake are fairly bland and inoffensive as characters, many of the team follow the charismatic Blake because of him and you get the feeling if he was doing something else, they’d help with that instead. With the cast and premise in place, we then start getting some sci-fi tropes and stories that we kind of expect, the kind of half Star Trek, half Battlestar Galactica stuff that you get with a TV show like this. So that also means we get villains, here we get the obsessive arch-nemesis Space Commander Travis, who chases Blake with the tenacity of a dog chasing a ball, he’s sent after the team by Supreme Commander Servalan, who plays the role as if she’s auditioning for Dynasty, all ballgowns and femme fatale.

Normally I would site stand-out episodes here, but with only 13 episodes, there isn’t much in the way of episodes you can ignore out of hand. The quality varies from episode to episode and the pacing does leave something to be desired, but the cast are earnest enough to make it work and look ordinary enough to make it relatable. There are no pretty boys here, this is average looking people, middle aged men and more than one guy a few pounds over fighting weight. In a TV landscape of unnaturally pretty  people in brightly coloured sets in an upbeat-ish world and there’s none of that here and it’s refreshing.

There are a few standout performances though, Servalan is clearly having so much fun here, all sexy and cold-blooded, long before V and Dynasty made these things staples of 80’s TV and the morally grey Avon is one of the best characters in this, with his dry delivery and understandable issues with how the rest of the team operate. We can’t all be Blake, most of us can however empathise with Avon.

Is this show for everyone? I can’t imagine that. Is this a polished show with top line effects? Oh lord no, this is a sci-fi show on a 70’s budget. Is this the greatest show on TV? No, this isn’t high art, this is a bit of a pop-culture car-wreck and for all those reasons I really enjoyed it.

I’ve enjoyed the hell out of watching this and am going to carry on with it all. Was quite happy to find it all on YouTube, because I’d be hard pressed to consider this worth putting out hard cash or shelf space for.

Bye for now internet people.

Posted in TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D. part 5

There are spoilers, since the series hasn’t finished that long ago here in Blighty.

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Agent Phil Coulson – Clark Gregg

Agent Melinda May –  Ming Na Wen

Agent Leopold Fitz   – Ian De Caestecker

Agent Gemma Simmons–  Elizabeth Henstridge

Daisy ‘Quake’ Johnson  –  Chloe Bennett

Alfonso ‘Mack’ MacKenzie –Henry Simmons

Elena ‘Yo-Yo’ Rodrigues – Natalia Cordova

Zeke Shaw                      – Jeff Ward

Recurring Cast:

Grant Ward –Catherine Dent

Glen Talbot – Adrian Pasdar

Enoch         –  Joel Stoffer

Cassius       –  Dominic Rains

Ruby Hale   –  Dove Cameron

Overview: Having done the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. in season one, it’s resurrection in two, the Inhumans in three, magic, robots and Hydra in four, there wasn’t much that the show hadn’t looked at in the Marvel Universe, with two exceptions, space and the future, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when they did it in season five. Back to being a rag-tag group of scrappy underdogs, the team found themselves in a space-station run by the oppressive Kree, who were mining the place for Inhumans to be used as weapons or slaves. The team arrives on the station thanks to one of the monoliths, last used in season three to transport people to Maveth. This one seemed only to take people 70 years into the future and it’s not a rosy one. Earth was destroyed shortly after they left and they are in an old S.H.I.E.L.D. lighthouse facility, which was part of the remains of Earth’s carcass. So we are dealing with ideas of predestination, paradox, aliens and the aftermath of the Framework and it’s lingering effects.

Initial Status Quo: Episodes 1-10 The team are in the future, the Kree are in charge, Inhumans are currency and the only hope for the team is the help of Zeke (a local to that time who is cynical to the point of sci-fi trope) and the less than coherent visions of Robin, an old woman where the team are and a little girl in the past. The team have to do whatever good they can, as well as find some way to return to their own time and maybe, prevent the destruction of the Earth.

Twist: They soon learn that not only is S.H.I.E.L.D. blamed for the Earth’s fate, but in the time they are in they had already returned home and failed to prevent it, they are in a time-loop, proved by YoYo’s existence in the future, killed and resurrected by the Kree with her arms missing and her life filled with pain and regret. They get home, now once more fugitives in an old S.H.I.E.L.D. base (the same Lighthouse from the future) determined to prevent the future they witnessed

Second Status Quo: Episodes 11-20 The team return with Zeke and start to piece together how the Earth is broken up and deal with a gravitational anomaly in the basement.

Twist 2: After hosting the Ghost Rider, Coulson is dying and the day the team come back, YoYo is maimed, losing her arms, just like her future self had done and the team have to do with the last remnants of Hydra, as well as a Coalition of alien races, including the Kree.

Twist 3: Zeke Shaw is the Grandson of Fitz and Simmons, who are married as they return.

Finale: Episodes 21-22 The team reach the point where the Earth is lost, but it’s not S.H.I.E.L.D. that will do it, it’s Graviton, the mix of the Gravitonium from season one and Glenn Talbot, who is ready to power up and save the world from the threat that the Coalition fears, the mad Titan Thanos. But Thanos isn’t the problem, Graviton is and the team has to face their former friend to literally save the world, knowing that every time this has been done, they have failed and not all of them make it out alive.

Overall: This is where you could end the series, everyone gets an arc, from Coulson accepting his fate, to everyone else trying to save him. Melinda goes from being the coldest of warriors to embracing her love for Coulson and the idea that in the future she would be Robin’s mum. Simmons and Mack only become more themselves, while YoYo strays and Fitz comes to the realisation that he is still the villain he was in the Framework, not the hero that Simmons sees him as. Even Quake and Zeke go from hostile to friends as Zeke realises he loves her, almost as much as he loves living in the green and pleasant land that is the past. It’s the strongest the series has been in regards to characterisation and still keeps the action and sci-fi flavour strong with returns from the Absorbing Man, Deathlok and Lance Hunter as well as new characters like the Kree, the Remoraks, Enoch and Noah and Flint. If this is where the series ended, that would have been a strong way to go, but it looks like ratings were strong enough to give it one more go, but we don’t get a teaser for the new series. The second life of Philip J Coulson was a five year romp through the side streets of the Marvel Universe and am glad this seeming end of his personal journey was so much fun to walk through.

Stand out Episodes:

Orientation: A cynical and almost beaten team (less Fitz) arrive in a desolate future, the odds are against them and there are many unknown dangers.

Rewind: We learn what happened to Fitz as he and Lance Hunter attempt a prison break and 75 year rescue mission.

The Real Deal: Coulson faces the idea that the whole series is just his mind coping with his death at the hands of Loki as he lies bleeding on the operating table. It’s believe that, or believe all the stuff that’s happened to him since then. Then Deathlok arrives and the series gets to episode 100.

Rise and Shine: General Hale’s life is shown to us as she realises that she isn’t going to be able to save the world on her own.

The End: Graviton is ready to save the world, he might just destroy the whole planet to do it as the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. make a desperate attempt to stop him and save lives, not all of them make it out of there alive.

Next Time: I have no idea, the only original cast members left are Simmons and Quake and who knows what the deal with S.H.I.E.L.D. is anymore.

 

Posted in TV Stuff

Championing the Overlooked: The Shannara Chronicles

There are few TV programs that I watch alone. Anything kid-friendly I watch with SuperSam and most of the rest with the MIGHTY Rosie. The MIGHTY Rosie is fairly geek-friendly. I often refer to her as being geek-adjacent. There are a few things that turns her cold, one is horror and the other is high-fantasy. When we tried the first episode of this a couple of years ago, my wife wasn’t particularly enthused, so we moved on and found something else. On a night where I couldn’t sleep, I gave the series a second go. Damn I enjoyed it second time round.

Most high fantasy (elves, trolls, magic and stuff) is either set in an age undreamed of, or a parallel world of some kind, Shannarah Chronicles is set somewhere else, the future. Here the elves, gnomes and trolls are off-shoots of  humanity who arose after some sort of ill-defined cataclysm. Throughout the series we often see pieces of architecture and machinery of the old world and it’s not really looked at, becoming more of a backdrop, than a plot point. The world ended, we don’t know how, but that’s not what the story is about and that’s fascinating to me.

The story is about a half elf/half human called Will Ohlmsford who is training to be a healer, just not far enough along to save his mother. He was raised in a human settlement called Shady Vale and leaves, after his mother’s funeral and being given his father’s elf-stones and heads off to make his way in the world. Across the country in the elven city of Arborlon the princess Amberle is trying to be the first girl to join the Chosen, a sect of her people who preserve the mystical tree the Elcrys. The first time the princess touches it, it shows her in visions that demons are trying to return to the Earth. Add in a human thief and the last of the mystical druids and we have ourselves a quest as the disparate players are brought together as war and destiny give them no choice.

It’s not a perfect show, there is a massive lean towards teen melodrama and fan service, but there’s not much like this on TV. The cast is a nice mix of newcomers and a few familiar faces such as Arrow’s Manu Bennett as the druid Allanon and John Rhys Davies as King Evantine who are old hands at making this bizarreness sound plausible. The action sequences are decent enough in a CW kind of way, there are serious stakes and no one in the show is particularly safe. The 2 seasons I did get to see each had their own distinct story, that still fed one into the other and it was particularly sad that this series isn’t getting a 3rd try.

I quite liked the series for what it was, a bit of weekend fluff and am glad I could find it on Netflix.

Ttfn internet people, work beckons.

Posted in TV Stuff

Idea

Had an idea for a blog project, 1st episodes of TV shows. Dunno if it should be a regular feature here, or maybe it’s own blog.

Just a random thought for the evening.

Posted in TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D part 4

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Agent Phil Coulson –  Clark Gregg

Agent Melinda May  –  Ming Na Wen

Agent Leopold Fitz    – Ian De Caestecker

Agent Gemma Simmons –  Elizabeth Henstridge

Daisy ‘Quake’ Johnson   –  Chloe Bennett

Alfonso ‘Mack’ MacKenzie – Henry Simmons

Jeffrey ‘Patriot’ Mace – Jason O’Mara

Dr Holden Radcliffe – John Hannah

Aida/Ophelia/Madam Hydra/Agnes – Mallory Jenson

Recurring Cast:

Elena ‘Yo-Yo’ Rodrigues – Natalia Cordova

Grant Ward – Brett Dalton

Glen Talbot – Adrian Pasdar

Robbie ‘Ghost Rider’ Reyes – Gabriel Luna

Overview: After a mixed season 3, season 4 turned into something a bit different with an almost triptych season, with mini-arcs or pods that tied together at the end. It’s ambitious, but with the returning cast very at home with their characters and decent performances from newcomers and consistent writing, it led to a season that pushed the quality up a level or two and that led to a more enjoyable season than I originally expected.

Initial Status Quo: Six months after the Hive incident and the fall of Hydra and it’s all changed. The Sokovia accords have been ratified after the events of Captain America: Civil War and S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the verge of being re-legitimised, Coulson (having run an illegal spy agency for a couple of years) is no longer director, Daisy Johnson is now a fugitive called Quake and the anti-Inhuman hate group Watchdogs has gone global. Now the season splits into 3 fairly distinct, but naturally connected pods.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. : Ghost Rider

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. : LMD

Agents of HYDRA

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. : Ghost Rider

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Episodes 1-8

These episodes center around the threat posed by ‘ghosts’, the mystical tome known as the Darkhold and the spirit of vengeance known as the Ghost Rider and all of those things converge with the re-organised S.H.I.E.L.D

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. : LMD

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Episodes 9-15

With Ghost Rider arc over, there are new threats. The Watchdogs have gone global, answering to a superior with ties to a hard-line anti-Inhuman senator and underneath that is Holden Radcliffe and his creation Aida. Bit by bit all the other threats fall away until we are left with Radcliffe replacing members of S.H.I.E.L.D. with identical Life Model Decoys (or LMDs). Those replaced include May, Mack, Mace, Coulson and Fitz. There’s robot doubles, the continued race for the Darkhold and obsessions galore, until Radcliffe’s ‘Framework’ is complete and Quake and Simmons have to break into this virtual work to locate and save the replaced agents and then we get to the final part of this season.

Agents of HYDRA

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Episodes 16-22

Ending the season is, Daisy Johnson and Jemma Simmons are in an exact replica of the world, but history has changed. Aida has fixed one thing for all captive agents, to keep them placated in their new lives, which has snowballed into a new world. May is first, he regret is the regret of killing an Inhuman child, this had led to an incident where the child killed hundreds of other children and bit by bit, a fascist Hydra run state has come into being and May is one of their harshest enforcers of law. Mace is a true Inhuman, able to be the hero and man he has always wanted, but now viewed as a terrorist. Coulson didn’t really want to join S.H.I.E.L.D. and is now a history teacher, indoctrinating the young in Hydra’s worldview and informing on those who don’t. Mack didn’t lose his daughter Hope and is a devoted and loving father to an adorable 10 year old. Fitz is the most changed, raised not by his kind and caring mother, but his abusive authoritarian father and now is the Doctor, an amoral scientist and number 2 man at Hydra, gleefully experimenting on Inhumans. Fitz is in love with the head of Hydra, Ophelia or Madame Hydra, the Framework avatar of Aida. Jemma and Daisy inhabit their own avatars and find that Daisy is Skye, Agent of Hydra and living with boyfriend Grant Ward and Jemma climbs out of a mass grave at S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy. The team get back together through battles, crises and not all of them make it out in one piece. But get out they do, but Aida has used the Darkhold to create her own body outside of the Framework, full of Inhuman powers and the full range of human emotions. She’s full of the wonder of life and passion, until things go badly and then she is all heartbreak and rage when everyone becomes who they used to be and remember who they loved, including Fitz, the man she loves.

It all ends in fire, death and revenge and includes a brief return appearance by Robbie ‘Ghost Rider’ Reyes. The team win the day, but with their base, alliances and reputation in tatters expect to be arrested and so wait to be captured.

Final Twist: Phil Coulson wakes up in some kind of cell, he gets ready for work, looking out of his window at the stars, because wherever he is, is in space.

Where are they? What’s going on? Well you’re going to have to wait for season 5.

Overall: It‘s a solid season, still over reliant on the Inhuman thing to move things forward and paint over the cracks in the story. The introduction of more mystical elements as well as the whole LMD thing adds a new flavour to the show and deliver a fun and well laid out season that brought me back to a show I was less than enthusiastic about watching again.

Stand Out Episodes:

The Good Samaritan: The first arc becomes a little clearer with the origin of the all new Ghost Rider.

Laws of Infernal Dynamics: Ghost Rider, the Patriot, Aida and the rest of the team go all out to defeat Eli Morrow, before he can destroy LA.

The Patriot: The Watchdog threat comes into focus here and we learn the truth about Jeffrey Mace, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and we get more changes to the team’s dynamics.

Hot Potato Soup: Several Koenigs, androids, the Framework and a race to the Darkhold as the LMD of May makes her move.

Self Control: Four people on the base are LMDs and the FitzSimmons team is on the defensive, until they realise that one of the four, is one of them. Paranoia and horror until we end up in the Framework, a world run by Hydra.

Identity and Change: A world were Grant Ward is the hero and Fitz is the monster who shoots an unarmed innocent to prove a point and the question changes from can we save them, to should we?

Next Time: “Space? Figures, we haven’t done that yet.”

Posted in Miscellaneous, TV Stuff

For the Geek in Me, 2017 Was Awesome: TV

This year was in many respects rough.

I know that no one is giving me points for neatness here, but the news is drab or it’s genuinely frightening. The world seems a darker place and for me that leaves a bit of escapism to find my joy. When it came to TV, it was an embarrassment of riches.

As I have been doing this year, I found my 5, but this time with a difference, for every new thing, have added a less-than-new thing that has been a positive this year:

Midnight Texas:

The hero of this story is a medium who fleeces people, but he is an actual medium and he’s on the run and finds himself in a very small town in the midst of Texas and learns that it’s the one place that he fits in. This is the story of the town on the border of Earth and what we call hell and it’s a border that’s losing integrity. Living in that town are a fallen angel, his demonic boyfriend, a pawnbroker with a secret, a preacher who is like a werewolf, but so much cooler than that, a witch, a vampire, and Olivia, who is scarier than any of them. The door to hell is starting to open and it’s about to get a lot worse.

There are succubi, neo-Nazis, a chain-smoking dead grandmother, a serial killer, another renegade angel, a talking cat and a demon. How was I not going to love this show? The show was adapted from books written by the same writer as True Blood, but this doesn’t have that show’s obsession with the sex life of its protagonist. One of the few shows that it doesn’t like such a chore to wait a week to watch, which is becoming something of a rarity.

But I also enjoyed: Killjoys

One of the surprise hits for me of the last year or so, this year’s third season hit the ground running and didn’t stop. The war between the RAC and the Hullen spread across the whole season and in between great character work showcased great action that Star Trek would have been proud to have.

Speaking of which

Star Trek Discovery:

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I liked 2 of the 3 J J Abrams era Star Trek movies. I did, but let’s be honest for a quick second, Star Trek is and always should be a TV property. The people at CBS are launching a streaming service and one of its first offerings is the return of Star Trek to its television roots. Set in the few years before the original 5-year mission, this is the story of a woman called Michael Burnham who was instrumental in the start of the war between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire. The star of this show is not the captain (because we get two of them), nor is the main thrust of the show about the ship (we again get two of them) but it is about Michael, who is thrown into a situation that she was never prepared for. The plot is political in nature, with the Klingons all vying for control of the many noble houses and Starfleet are scrambling to take any advantage in a war that they don’t know that they can win. The captains aren’t square-jawed heroes and the choices made aren’t heroic at times, but this story is interesting and it stands alongside Deep Space 9 as a series I would recommend for not as Star Trek fans, but would like to give something a try.

Something else that was enjoyed (however not by me) Star Trek Voyager:

I am not going to tell you that it’s my favourite series (because it isn’t) or that it’s the most consistently good (because it isn’t) or that I’ve really enjoyed re-watching it (I haven’t) this gets to this list, because of my son. In an attempt to avoid watching such televisual delights as Pokémon and Paw Patrol, I put on the pilot of Deep Space Nine on, then the season 4 opener. He enjoyed them, I threw the dice and put the pilot of Voyager on. He LOVED it, loved it and wanted more. He’s watched several episodes and is now at the start of the 4th season, with the introduction of Jeri Ryan’s 7of9. I am glad he is enjoying Star Trek, maybe 7 is the target audience because he’s been fascinated and asking questions and it’s been a lovely thing I have been able to share with him, re-watching Voyager is a price to pay, but not too high a price.

The Defenders:

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When Marvel announced their Netflix series, I was skeptical. After the lukewarm success of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the announcement that the first of the proposed series was Daredevil, I think I wasn’t alone there. But Daredevil was a hit, then came Jessica Jones which was well written and had outstanding performances, Luke Cage which fleshed out and modernized a great character while accepting the previous look. Even the lamented Iron Fist was enjoyable even with a far from likeably written Danny Rand, so by the time The Defenders came along, I was convinced enough to give it a go. I liked it, there was a lot of threads and characters pulled from the previous stories and did a decent enough job of tying it all together and I got to see Power Man and Iron Fist on screen together and left me wanting a little bit more.

I also have enjoyed Arrow:

DC won’t do a live-action Batman show, he’s A-List, but DC had another character that is essentially ‘what if Batman was Robin Hood?’ Oliver ‘the Green Arrow’ Queen. This series was a Batman Begins take on Ollie, building him from the ground up, introducing more DCU elements as it came along. The MIGHTY Rosie and I have been re-watching and it is even more enjoyable on Blu-Ray, where you can watch 3 or 4 at a time and Arrow’s success led to Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow. I have a lot of good telly coming in 2018 too since we are at the point where this CW DC Universe starts to expand, starting with the Flash.

Night Shift:

Every now and again, the MIGHTY Rosie pulls a little gem out of nowhere. This was one of those. Night Shift is the story of a memorial hospital in San Antonio in Texas. This hospital’s night shift is staffed with military vets and adrenaline junkies. The story begins by centering on Doctor TC Callahan, a former Ranger suffering PTSD, his ex-girlfriend Jordan and his best friend Topher. Rounding out the team are a couple of doctors, some nurses and some new residents and this series hooked me with its fast-paced action, complex characterization and medical drama that often took me by surprise. There were only four seasons, so less than 40 episodes in total and each one is worth watching, we found this on Netflix and was an excellent pallette-cleanse from the many police procedurals and sci-fi programs that we’ve enjoyed recently.

I have also enjoyed, Grey’s Anatomy:

I found Chicago Hope boring, didn’t particularly take to ER and the less said about the British hospital procedurals Casualty and Holby City the better. So I have avoided Grey’s Anatomy quite effectively for the best part of a decade and was put onto it once more by the MIGHTY Rosie and got hooked.  This is the story of a group put into a surgical program at a prestigious hospital. They are all broken in one respect or another, suffering their own issue, their poor judgment and yet keep trying. There’s soapy crap, but also some touching scenes, comedy and more than a little whimsy. I’m 5 series in now, I do intend to catch up and it’s nice to get out of your own little niche and find something a little bit different.

Finally we get to Rick and Morty:

I am an avid fan of podcasts, most of them are American comic related ones, but there have been a couple of more local quality shows, one of them is Stacey’s Pop Culture Parlour. The Parlour is a series by the hilarious Stacey Taylor ( @StaceysParlour ) and she talks ‘at length’ on a number of pop culture topics, the reason that she is mentioned is that it’s from her I first learned the words Rick and Morty,, this was mentioned a good number of times and eventually I found it on Netflix and checked it out. It’s primarily a Back to the Future parody/homage (‘Rick and Morty/Doc and Marty) it’s a whole lot darker than that. Rick Sanchez is genius/super-scientist villain/alcoholic, who has reconnected with his estranged daughter Beth, her husband Jerry and their kids Summer and the perpetually anxious Morty. Morty keeps getting pulled into the bizarre misadventures of his grandfather and his portal gun shenanigans. It’s dark, it’s bleak and there’s very rarely a happy ending, but it’s also smart, hilarious and always fun. I currently have a Rick Keyring and am patiently waiting for news of series 4, the reason? Season 3 brought us “Pickle Rick!”

Can’t wait to see what we get next.

I also enjoyed Bojack Horseman:

 Everyone loves Bojack Horseman, but nobody likes Bojack Horseman.  In a world of people and animal people, which is both relevant to the story and not, he’s a former sit-com star with a harassed agent/ex-girlfriend, unemployed houseguest, annoying affable friend and a ghost writer pushing him to open up about a past that he is doing his best to get away from. There are misadventures, commentary on modern celebrity culture and a number of funny lines. None of that is why I am so fond of this series. The reason I enjoy it, is that it’s not a happy show. The most cheerful character is Todd, a unemployed misfit, struggling with his identity as an asexual man. But every character has that melancholy tinge of unhappiness, or confusion about them. It also highlights the self destructive impulses of depression and addiction in a way I have never seen on TV, let alone an animated series. There’s an episode in the 4th season where you hear the internal monologue of Bojack and it’s horrifyingly familiar. It’s not a story with happy endings, nor a likeable lead, but it is compelling and I am hoping a 5th season arrives.

This has been a trying year, but the TV has been above average.

Next Time: No comics, no films, no TV, just life.